NY teacher indirectly exposes how “inclusiveness” turning back clock

The New York Times has a blog post by a practising New York State teacher by the name of Laura Klein. In my opinion, her’s is a plea from the heart. Yet, it was what she wrote in her introduction that popped out at me immediately. She says:

“Like most schools in New York City, we have been moving rapidly toward inclusion — moving children from more restrictive settings (smaller classes, less movement) to less restrictive ones.”

So, how exactly is it “inclusive” to move a child from a smaller, quieter class to a large regular classroom given the child would have originally been placed in the smaller class on the basis of an individual assessment?

Well, it obviously isn’t “inclusive” unless what you are trying to do is more about the politics of diversity as opposed to meeting individual needs. In fact, in reality, making such a unilateral move towards “inclusiveness” could actually be extremely disruptive to a special education student, leaving them feeling “excluded” from the larger group.

Remember, just because education officials and politicians say such a move is inclusive doesn’t make it so. Which reminds me of some well-meaning officials in the Niagara Region of Ontario who closed three major hospitals and then had the nerve to say they did so “to improve health care” even though, in an emergency, the nearest hospital was 40 minutes to an hour away. Yea, right.

In any event, like in New Brunswick and Ontario, inclusiveness in New York State is code for what is expected to happen to every student. Come what may, they will be placed in a regular classroom for their own good.

In other words, like a Procrustean bed, the diagnosed needs of an exceptional student will be forced to fit an arbitrary standard. When you come to think about it, how strange that a single regular classroom option is considered the least restrictive environment for nearly every single student.

Yes, some students will thrive in a regular classroom on a fulltime basis. But, just as many will not. In fact, some will suffer greatly with noise and distractions.

Anyway, it is obvious that the more things change the more they stay the same. In the 1970s and early 1980s, parents on both sides of the border fought tooth and nail for legislation that would accommodate every student with special needs. 

In Ontario, the result was Bill 82 and in the U.S. Public Law 94-142.  Both were called progressive. Finally, children got the help they needed.

So, why are they trying to turn back the clock? Well, if it is to save money, they should skip the ideological platitudes and simply tell us the truth. If, on the other hand, it is about “equity” and creating mini-melting pots in the name of tolerance, the result will simply be conformity.  

One thing is for sure, when it comes to meeting the “individual” needs of children requiring special education today, the current vision of inclusiveness may be politically correct but it certainly isn’t progressive!

Endnote: As the Denver Foundations link shows, the notion of equity and “inclusiveness” is a commendable goal for any organization. As a concept, it makes sense. However, operationalizing such an ideology in an education setting becomes difficult, if not impossible, because we are talking about human beings, not a concept.

Think back to Open Concept schools of the 1970s. They were built on the basis of an ideology as well, based on a central library. Then, as now, throwing kids together in the hopes they could succeed together was a really bad idea for children with concentration problems, learning disabilities and/or behavioural needs.

Yet, here we are again only trying to imagine a single classroom model. How many severely disabled children and youth, such as those with autism and intellectual disabilities, will be adversely affected before this wave passes? Because it will pass but it will take a decade before the damage is obvious!

“Full-inclusive” proponents ignoring evidence & human rights of severely autistic students

It sounds counter-intuitive that “mainstreaming,” or “fully inclusive” education could harm a child or youth with special needs. But it definitely can and that it can is not a new idea.

Back in 1984, I wrote a peer-reviewed article for publication in Education Canada about just that potential problem. At that time, I was teaching university education courses, as well as operating a special education private practice.

Since part of my practice was acting as an advocate for parents trying to navigate the Ontario school system, I knew what problems they were having and those problems were at opposite ends of the issue.

For example, on the one hand, some parents wanted their children, particularly if they had physical, learning or intellectual disabilities without any behavioural problems, put into the regular stream.  So, I would help them get their children placed in the most acceptable regular classroom environment possible.  

But, on the other hand, there was a small number of parents who wanted their child left in or placed in a segregated environment based on specific diagnostic criteria, what is now referred to as a research “evidence-based intervention” approach to determining a school placement.   In the 1980s, that kind of placement was possible but by the 1990s, they were nearly non-existent.

However, in the Niagara Region where I live, there was the Niagara Children’s Centre, which continues to this day. So, while there can be huge waiting lists, an evidence-based environment is possible in our neck of the woods. Others parts of Ontario and Canada may not be so lucky. For example, the Thistletown Regional Centre is about to be closed down by the McGuinty Liberal Government in Ontario –with claims that parents can find similar services in their own communities — which is absolute nonsense.

Suffice to say that over the years, exclusive or segregated classrooms have all but disappeared. Why the one-sized fits all approach? In my opinion, it’s all about money and government priorities.

Just as Thistletown is being closed down in the near future, Ontario is spending huge amounts of money subsidizing private wind developers. And, just like when hospital beds or even hospitals are closed,  provincial governments continue to have the gall to say they are doing it to improve services.  

Anyway, it was with a heavy heart today, that I visited Harold Doherty’s website called “Facing Autism in N.B” and listened to his radio interview about how New Brunswick is trying to go to the “full inclusiveness” model at the expense of the needs of students like his son, Conor, who is at the severe end of the autism spectrum.

So, I recommend readers visit Doherty’s blog to listen for themselves. Simply click on the link and then wait a few seconds and the audio will come up. I have no doubt that Mr. Gordon Porter and the N.B. Association for Community Living have only the most honourable reasons for pushing “full inclusiveness.”

But they need to step outside their philosophical comfort zone and realize what it is like for parents who have children or youth who simply can’t manage in a regular classroom environment, regardless of the number of accommodations, enhancements, social workers or teaching assistants.

As Doherty suggests, insisting on full inclusiveness as opposed to making decisions based on verifiable diagnostic evidence is actually flouting the human rights of severely autistic students — something school boards and school districts across Canada need to consider.

“Full-inclusive” proponents ignoring evidence & human rights of severely autistic students

Inclusive education where possible but not always.

It sounds counter-intuitive that “mainstreaming,” or “fully inclusive” education could harm a child or youth with special needs. But it definitely can and that it can is not a new idea.

Back in 1984, I wrote a peer-reviewed article for publication in Education Canada about just that potential problem. At that time, I was teaching university education courses, as well as operating a special education private practice.

Since part of my practice was acting as an advocate for parents trying to navigate the Ontario school system, I knew what problems they were having and those problems were at opposite ends of the issue.

For example, on the one hand, some parents wanted their children, particularly if they had physical, learning or intellectual disabilities without any behavioural problems, put into the regular stream.  So, I would help them get their children placed in the most acceptable regular classroom environment possible.  

But, on the other hand, there was a small number of parents who wanted their child left in or placed in a segregated environment based on specific diagnostic criteria, what is now referred to as a research “evidence-based intervention” approach to determining a school placement.   In the 1980s, that kind of placement was possible but by the 1990s, they were nearly non-existent.

However, in the Niagara Region where I live, there was the Niagara Children’s Centre, which continues to this day. So, while there can be huge waiting lists, an evidence-based environment is possible in our neck of the woods. Others parts of Ontario and Canada may not be so lucky. For example, the Thistletown Regional Centre is about to be closed down by the McGuinty Liberal Government in Ontario –with claims that parents can find similar services in their own communities — which is absolute nonsense.

Suffice to say that over the years, exclusive or segregated classrooms have all but disappeared. Why the one-sized fits all approach? In my opinion, it’s all about money and government priorities.

Just as Thistletown is being closed down in the near future, Ontario is spending huge amounts of money subsidizing private wind developers. And, just like when hospital beds or even hospitals are closed,  provincial governments continue to have the gall to say they are doing it to improve services.  

Anyway, it was with a heavy heart today, that I visited Harold Doherty’s website called “Facing Autism in N.B” and listened to his radio interview about how New Brunswick is trying to go to the “full inclusiveness” model at the expense of the needs of students like his son, Conor, who is at the severe end of the autism spectrum.

So, I recommend readers visit Doherty’s blog to listen for themselves. Simply click on the link and then wait a few seconds and the audio will come up. I have no doubt that Mr. Gordon Porter and the N.B. Association for Community Living have only the most honourable reasons for pushing “full inclusiveness.”

But they need to step outside their philosophical comfort zone and realize what it is like for parents who have children or youth who simply can’t manage in a regular classroom environment, regardless of the number of accommodations, enhancements, social workers or teaching assistants.

As Doherty suggests, insisting on full inclusiveness as opposed to making decisions based on verifiable diagnostic evidence is actually flouting the human rights of severely autistic students — something school boards and school districts across Canada need to consider.